10 Things Writers Should Know
People have a misconception that writing, in general, is easier than it is. Pardon me while I burst the proverbial bubble here. I’m going to set the record straight (buckle up your pants or your seatbelt and get ready). I’ve included some helpful links as well.
Following is a list I’ve drafted of ‘things to keep in mind’ if you decide to jump headfirst (or continue) into the game of writing. Trust me, it’s an axe-grinding, balloon deflating, uphill job. Until it isn’t. More on that later.
HARD WORK IS REALLY PERSISTENT LOVE
1. Do you like mowing the lawn? Washing the dishes? Cleaning out the garage? Didn’t think so. Remember this: writing is not a hobby if you’re serious about it. It’s a JOB! And jobs require time and work. If you don’t LOVE writing, now might be the time to reassess your commitment.
THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS
2. First off, writing is a business. Sure, it involves creativity and a well-developed imagination. But if you’re going to succeed you’ll need to understand the difference between creation and remuneration. Very different sides of the brain operating here. Obviously, you should avoid vanity publishers like the plague. Check Predators & Editors and Absolute Write. Don’t go in blind and foolish. Legit publishers should pay you for your work, not the other way round, unless you’re big into charity. Or working for free. You’ll need to pay for a domain name, business cards, spend money on giveaways and print books. It adds up! Keep your day job if you have one.
OWN UP TO YOUR WEAKNESSES AND LEARN
3. Your manuscript is perfect, I know you think that (we all do). It’s a shining jewel. A masterpiece. You may wonder why the world hasn’t discovered this fact yet. Ding dong. Anyone home? You probably think you’re the best driver and housecleaner too (if you are, lead the way). There are very good writers in existence. A few excellent writers. But there are more mediocre writers and certainly crappy writers abound. You may have a knack. You may not. How to know? Have you taken any writing courses? Did you flunk English in high school? How long have you been working on your novel? Has anyone read your WIP? All great things to keep in mind.
Kind of like other aspiring greats. Remember Gustave Eiffel? His creation was abhorred by the citizens of Paris in the beginning. But he knew he was on to something. So, if you really believe you’ve got the goods, make sure you do a damn good job of it before you send it out to the masses. Start by reading oodles of books. Take writing classes. Google writing tips. Learn all you can up front about writing and publishing. Spend time editing your WIP. Not a grammar scholar? This site is a lifesaver for grammar rules and tips: https://www.grammarbook.com/.
MINGLING IS REALLY IMPORTANT
4. There seems to be a prevailing belief that writers are solitary, weird people. Well, I’m sure some are. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone but the truth is that’s a myth. You need to put on your smiley face and work at networking. There we go, that word work again.
Socialize, socialize, socialize! That means attending book signings, conferences, plugging in to various social media platforms, blogging, etc. Don’t be shy. Comb your hair and come into the light. A good mantra: time to sparkle, time to shine, time for another glass of wine!
PUT ON YOUR PROFESSIONAL HAT
5. Maintain a professional image. Get rid of your ‘lucyloveslarrydotcom’ domain name. Unless that’s the title of your book. Establish a brand and keep it consistent. If you happen to write erotica on the side, maybe use a pen name and a separate site. Consider getting a professional head shot and make sure your social media sites are similar and recognizable.
During emails and communications with publishers, editors and other authors, be mindful of your tone. Slinging accusations or bad-mouthing people is a bad idea in general. People talk, emails can be shared. Be yourself; just not your sloppy self when you’re lying in bed in pyjamas drinking beer and eating popcorn.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
6. Just as when you learned to drive, or cook or change a tire, your parents, spouse, and teachers lined up to tell you how wonderful a job you did. Or how you screwed up and ‘need to do it all over’. When you finally get that query letter sent off, or finally get a contract or land an agent, be prepared for a whole bunch of feedback. Consider yourself lucky if you do. Unless you’ve been writing for decades with dozens of well-paying books under your belt, you’ll need feedback. Probably lots of it. This is where it’s a good idea to remember those tips I mentioned on professionalism.
You may discover your writing needs a lot of improvement. Embrace the criticism. It means someone has spent time looking over your work. You’re ahead of the game already. Then move on to the task of improving your skill based on that feedback you just gained.
BALANCE IS A FENG-SHUI, YIN-YANG SORT OF THING
7. So now you’re in the groove. You’ve got a website, a WIP, a blog, an offer on a finished manuscript. Celebration time! No rest for the wicked. This is when it’s time to get your game on and roll up your sleeves. Writing is full-time, all year long. Morning, noon and night. In fact, things can speed up quickly at this point. You’ll be so busy working on edits, building your social media and responding to emails you’ll barely keep your head above water. Don’t fall apart and decide now’s a good time for an extended break. You’ll need to keep focused for a long time. That cover reveal needs to be announced, those blogs need to be written, edits must be done by . . . you get the picture.
Avoid crash and burn-out! Early on, you’ll need to balance writing with the mountainous task of maintaining social media. Pick the ones you like the most, don’t fret over the rest. You’ll be most effective if you enjoy what you’re doing. This is when family and friends will wonder if you’re ever going to stumble out of your cave. Please do, once in a while. Writers become absorbed and enmeshed in their literary worlds but real life needs to continue. Don’t neglect your closest relatives and friends. Parcel in time for non-writing endeavors. Breathe in. Breathe out. Then get right back in the saddle.
SAVE YOUR PENNIES FOR A RAINY DAY
8. What’s life without dreams? Not so great, I’d say. We all have ’em. Dreams are important but they don’t always come true. Still, it doesn’t hurt to try. If you expect to hit the jackpot like JK Rowling or EL James, you’re going to have a hard landing. I don’t know the exact percentage, but let’s roll the dice and say . . . maybe 1% of writers become rich and famous. Not great odds.
Most likely, you’ll need to have money in your pocket and view writing as something that takes hard work that just might pay off big in the long run. It’s a strange concept to absorb. I emphasized earlier that writing is serious and it should pay you. That’s true. But I didn’t say all jobs pay well.
MIND YOUR MONEY
9. On the topic of money, once you earn some through writing, you’ll become part of a select group. However, plenty of people are waiting in the wings to make money from your slave labour. You may suddenly find your inbox filled with requests from all sorts of business people. Some will want you to buy their (numerous) self-help books about writing. Be wary of publishers seeking submissions from you directly—in exchange for subscribing to their newsletter. People will offer to review your books for free, so long as you pay first to be on their ‘list’. Reviews should not be bought and while it is difficult to get them, keep searching before you hand over money for a review. Contests abound. Some are prestigious and legitimate. Others aren’t. Research online contests before you pop a check in the mail. Here is a great link offering tips to avoid contest scams http://www.wikihow.com/Avoid-Writing-Contest-Scams.
Finally, companies who offer workshops will be calling. Check your local writers’ groups first, they may offer free courses on the same subject. All in all, it’s your decision where your money goes. Just be aware that the doorbell will ring constantly with those seeking to take some of it.
SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE
10. Remember that chocolate you found in your lunchbox at school? Your friends peering over your shoulder wearing bright, expectant smiles? Don’t be the kid who doesn’t share a piece of chocolate.
Writing and publishing may appear as a cavernous, world-wide-web of authors with no end. Yet in some ways it’s a small nation like other industries. And similar to other careers, it’s a good idea to help out other writers when the opportunity arises. Inviting fellow authors to guest blog on your site is a great start, as is offering to provide a critique for someone’s WIP. Tweet their new releases, vote for their books, provide helpful answers to questions they have. Helping another person will not be forgotten and their appreciation, knowing the time you took out of your day to help, will rebound when it’s your turn.